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North Korea Nuclear Talks To Wrap Up Amid Energy Aid Row

South Korean chief negotiator Chun Yung-Woo arrives at Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse for a banquet after the second day of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, 09 February 2007. North Korea said it was ready for compromise as envoys from six nations worked on a draft accord that could see the regime taking the first steps towards ending its nuclear weapons drive. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Jun Kwanwoo and Shigemi Sato
Beijing (AFP) Feb 12, 2007
Six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear arms drive will wrap up on Monday after being held up by the communist state's excessive demands for energy aid, the top US negotiator said. The six nations "really concurred that tomorrow will be the last day," Christopher Hill told reporters in Beijing on Sunday. He was speaking at the end of the fourth day of the latest round of the talks, fuelled by North Korea's first ever nuclear test in October.

"We've spent the last few days discussing energy issues. Be sure that we've been prepared to provide some energy assistance, but we've not been prepared to provide energy to substitute denuclearisation," Hill added.

Japan's chief negotiator Kenichiro Sasae told reporters earlier Sunday that the problem was North Korea's "excessive expectations" for energy aid in exchange for dismantling its nuclear weapons and programmes.

North Korea, apparently emboldened by the nuclear test, has demanded two million tonnes of fuel oil and other inducements, Japanese press have reported.

That would be four times as much fuel oil as offered under a now-defunct 1994 disarmament deal.

"We are not looking for assistance of that kind which somehow allows the DPRK (North Korea) to avoid denuclearisation ... avoiding further steps in denuclearisation," Hill said, without giving any figures related to Pyongyang's demand.

He did not indicate how the latest round would end but said that in his meeting with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-Gwan, he had "laid out for him what we are prepared to do and what we are not prepared to do."

"I think I gave him something to think about. I think it's now for the DPRK to discuss this among themselves and discuss with their capital, Pyongyang."

Hill also said such a technical issue and energy aid would best be dealt with by experts in one of several working groups expected to be launched in the six-nation forum.

Sasae separately said: "Tomorrow it will become clearer which way it is going, whether the discussions are heading towards a settlement or not." "We have had bilateral and trilateral contacts all day long, but there is no special progress to report. We may have to continue consultations until tomorrow," chief South Korean delegate Chun Yung-Woo told reporters.

"The core contentious points have boiled down to a narrow range, but we are continuing to make efforts to bridge the gap," he said.

The latest round of talks in the three-year-old, six-nation forum -- which includes the United States, host China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas -- has been aiming for agreement on a draft accord drawn up by Beijing.

The plan calls for Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for energy assistance, security guarantees and diplomatic recognition. Talks began Thursday amid optimism a deal was possible.

A Pyongyang mouthpiece newspaper blamed the logjam on US "betrayal", saying Washington was not honouring pledges, which the paper claimed the United States made earlier, to give energy incentives and lift financial sanctions on the communist state.

"(North Korean) delegates participating in the six-party talks are expressing distrust over the US act of betrayal," the Chosun Shinbo, published for ethnic Koreans in Japan, said in its online edition.

The newspaper said that in meetings last month in Berlin, Hill promised Kim that within 30 days the US would lift sanctions on a Macau bank that have frozen 24 million dollars in North Korean funds.

The sanctions were in response to alleged money laundering and counterfeiting by cash-strapped North Korea through the Banco Delta Asia.

The paper said in return for lifting the sanctions, North Korea would begin disarmament within 60 days.

However, 30 days have not yet elapsed since the Berlin meetings on January 17-18.

Sunday's outcome bore a familiar ring for the six-party forum hosted by China, which began in 2003 to seek a negotiated end to Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions but has singularly failed amid North Korean finger-pointing and brinkmanship.

Details of the Chinese plan have not been released, but press reports have said under the deal North Korea would close its main nuclear-related facilities, including a five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon, within two months in return for alternative energy sources.

earlier related report
Hopes For Nuclear Deal Dim Amid North Korean Aid Demands
by Jun Kwanwoo and Shigemi Sato
Beijing (AFP) Feb 11 - Early hopes for a deal to scrap North Korea's nuclear arms programme have dimmed, negotiators said on Sunday, with Japan blaming Pyongyang's "excessive" demands for aid in return for disarming. "The problem is North Korea has excessive expectations and demands. Unless they reconsider this, it will be difficult to reach an agreement," Japan's chief negotiator Kenichiro Sasae told reporters in Beijing on the fourth day of North Korean disarmament talks.

"The gap between North Korea and our side still remains wide and severe."

Other participants in the six-nation talks -- which also include the United States, Russia, South Korea and hosts China -- also were downbeat.

"It looks unreasonable to expect a breakthrough today," South Korean envoy Chun Yung-Woo told reporters.

The latest round of the long-running six-nation talks began on Thursday amid optimism that a deal could be reached on a draft accord by China in which Pyongyang agreed to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for energy aid and other incentives.

But, as has happened many times before in the nearly four-year-old process, the talks have snagged amid unacceptable demands by North Korea.

The dispute this time is over how much energy aid the five other nations would offer North Korea, which detonated its first nuclear device in October.

Japanese press reports have said North Korea, possibly emboldened by the October test, had demanded two million tonnes of fuel oil and two million kilowatts of electricity in exchange for initial steps towards abandonment of its nuclear programmes.

That would be four times as much fuel oil as offered under a similar yet now-defunct 1994 disarmament deal.

US chief negotiator Christopher Hill expressed impatience with the situation on Sunday.

"I think it's time to wrap this up and get going," Hill told reporters in the morning.

"I hope the other participants will share that view that it's time to get it over with."

Hill implied that he wanted to push for broad agreement on the overall accord to cement progress during the current round of talks and leave any sticking points to be be ironed out later.

He was to meet again on Sunday with North Korean negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan and expressed hope that agreement was still within reach.

"Today is the fourth day and it seems to me this is a day we will try to wrap it up," he said.

But Russia's envoy Alexander Losyukov, who had said Saturday morning that the nuclear talks would end with a substantive "joint statement", was not hopeful on Sunday, saying parties may have to settle for a less-binding outcome.

"But that doesn't mean a failure," Losyukov said in remarks quoted by China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

Specifics of the Chinese draft plan have not been released, but press reports have said under the deal North Korea would close its main nuclear-related facilities, including a five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon, within two months in return for alternative energy sources.

Japan has vowed not to extend aid to North Korea unless there is progress on the unresolved question of Japanese who were kidnapped by the communist state in the 1970s and 1980s and are presumed to still live there.

The six-party forum began in 2003 with the aim of convincing North Korea to disarm. But it has seen many false dawns and failed to stop the regime from conducting its atomic test.

earlier related report
Nuclear talks snag on NKorea energy demands
Beijing (AFP) Feb 11 - North Korea's unreasonable negotiating position on energy aid is blocking a deal to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear arms programme, Japan's envoy said as disarmament talks entered a fourth day Sunday.

"The problem is North Korea is having excessive expectations and demands. Unless they reconsider this, it will be difficult to reach an agreement," Japan's chief negotiator Kenichiro Sasae told reporters in Beijing when asked about North Korea's stance on energy assistance.

"The gap between North Korea and our side still remains wide and severe."

Since Thursday, the six nations involved in the talks -- which also include the United States, Russia, South Korea and hosts China -- have focused on a draft Chinese accord spelling out incentives for North Korea to give up its nuclear arms ambitions.

Talks ended Saturday with chief US negotiator Christopher Hill saying North Korea was preventing a deal by fixating on "one paragraph that keeps on being reworked."

On Sunday, Hill expressed impatience with the progress of the talks.

"I think it's time to wrap this up and get going," Hill told reporters.

"I hope the other participants will share that view that it's time to get it over with."

While not specifying the sticking point, Hill said the dispute concerns details that should be worked out later by specialists.

"Frankly, an issue of this kind is more appropriate for experts," he said.

However, Hill said he planned to meet North Korean negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan again on Sunday and expressed hope that the talks could wrap up by the end of the day.

"Today is the fourth day and it seems to me this is a day we will try to wrap it up," he said.

But that upbeat view was not shared either by Sasae or by South Korea's envoy, Chun Yung-Woo.

"It looks unreasonable to expect a breakthrough today," Chun told reporters as he left his hotel for talks.

Japan has vowed not to extend aid to North Korea unless there is progress on the unresolved question of Japanese who were kidnapped by the communist state in the 1970s and 1980s and are presumed to still live there.

Under the draft agreement, North Korea would close its main nuclear-related facilities, including a five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon, within two months in return for alternative energy sources, press reports have said.

Japan's Kyodo news agency earlier reported that North Korea had demanded two million tonnes of fuel oil and two million kilowatts of electricity in exchange for initial steps towards abandonment of its nuclear programmes.

However, Chun said Sunday no electricity demand has been put forward in the current round of talks.

Envoys have refused to give specifics about the Chinese draft accord, but said it sought to begin implementing a six-party agreement reached in September 2005.

That deal fell through within just two months over North Korean objections to US financial sanctions imposed against it for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting.

In the agreement, North Korea agreed to scrap its nuclear programme in return for security guarantees, energy benefits and aid.

The potential breakthrough this week comes after North Korea conducted its first atomic test in October last year, an event it said confirmed its status as a global nuclear power, but which also drew United Nations sanctions.

The six-party forum began in 2003 with the aim of convincing North Korea to disarm. But it has seen many false dawns and failed to stop the regime from conducting its atomic test.

earlier related report
Analysis: N.Korea strives to win energy
By Lee Jong-Heon
Korea (UPI) Feb 08 - North Korea has largely focused its demands at the international nuclear talks on a supply of heavy fuel oil in return for steps toward nuclear disarmament, reflecting the country's acute energy shortages, officials and analysts in Seoul say.

The communist country, which conducted a nuclear weapons test last October, returned to the long-stalled six-nation talks in December, during which it called for the lifting of U.S.-led financial sanctions in return for any denuclearization steps. As face-to-face talks late last month on the financial issue between North Korea and the United States made some progress, Pyongyang has shifted its demand to energy shipment during this week's six-way talks, officials here say.

Negotiators at the six-nation talks, aimed at ridding the North of its nuclear weapons programs, entered their second day of talks Friday with growing hope of substantial progress to end the years-long nuclear standoff.

"North Korea seems to aim at winning an energy package of electricity and oil at this round of talks in return for freezing its nuclear facilities," a government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A diplomatic source also said North Korea has called for massive energy shipments, noting it would, in return, halt the operation of its graphite-moderated 5-megawatt reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex. The North said it was also willing to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to enter the country to confirm whether North Korea halts the operation.

Earlier, U.S.-based broadcaster NBC News also said, citing U.S. officials, the North is offering to suspend and eventually disable its nuclear program and permit U.N. inspections of facilities in return for hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel aid to the energy-starved country.

"The North's strong calls for fuel oil shipment reflect its severe energy shortage which has forced the country to shut down factories and disrupt transportation service," the official said.

The North's chronic energy shortage has deepened after the United States stopped an annual shipment of 500,000 tons of fuel oil in January 2003 in retaliation for Pyongyang's revival of its nuclear weapons program.

The construction of light-water nuclear reactors for electricity in the North has also been scrapped following the North's nuclear crisis which erupted late 2002.

To make up the loss of fuel oil, the North has imported more electricity and crude oil from its patron China, but it remains far short of the country's energy demand. Still worse, China is under pressure to reduce its oil shipment to the North to join the U.N.-backed squeeze following its nuclear test.

North Korea is believed to have the capacity of 7.5 million kilowatts, but its actual production remains less than half of the capacity, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry.

"Power was frequently going out at industrial factories because of acute energy shortages," the ministry said in a recent report.

North Korea has been pushing to build more power stations, while launching nation-wide campaigns to reduce energy consumptions in an apparent bid to brace for worsening energy shortages in the wake of U.N.-backed sanctions for its nuclear test.

The country's supreme leader Kim Jong-Il has called for constructing more hydraulic power stations as a way to ease the country's electricity crisis. Kim stressed hydro-electric power projects as a shortcut to satisfactorily meeting the increasing demand for electricity, the North's state media said.

If North Korea fully uses its rich hydropower resources, Kim said, it would bring about a signal turn in settling the problem of electricity in the near future, said the North's Korean Central News Agency.

The North has built hydroelectric power stations at small rivers across the country for the past decades. But the hydraulic power stations produce less electricity during winter time due to lacks of water in the rivers.

The North has also pushed for developing wind energy as a long-term project to find alternative sources.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Source: United Press International

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Iranian Ready To Resume Talks But Set To Announce New Technologies
Munich, Germany (AFP) Feb 11, 2007
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said on Sunday the Islamic republic was prepared to return to negotiations to seek an agreement over its nuclear programme. "The political will of Iran is aimed at a negotiated settlement of the case. We don't want to aggravate the situation in the region," Larijani said in a speech to a high-level security conference here.







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